Furious 7 – Part Deux Vroom Vroom

Furious 7 is currently playing in theaters.

Furious 7

 

Furious 7 (2015) – Rated PG-13

Dominic Torretto and his crew thought they left the criminal mercenary life behind. They defeated an international terrorist named Owen Shaw and went their seperate ways. But now, Shaw’s brother, Deckard Shaw is out killing the crew one by one for revenge. Worse, a Somalian terrorist called Jakarde, and a shady government official called “Mr. Nobody” are both competing to steal a computer terrorism program called God’s Eye, that can turn any technological device into a weapon. Torretto must reconvene with his team to stop Shaw and retrieve the God’s Eye program while caught in a power struggle between terrorist and the United States government.”

Well I spent yesterday detailing how atrocious the script for Furious 7 was. The thing is there’s another movie here. The other Furious 7 is all about the casting and that film is knocked out of the park.

All of the previous crew return in Furious 7 although Sung Kang as Han only appears in the scene repeated from the end of Fast & Furious 6. The multi-ethnic portion is a good sell for the international market. Obviously there is a lot of sentiment for Paul Walker’s final performance. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson are given star roles but there are plenty of good moments for Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Mia (Jordana Brewster).

Jason Statham is a great tough guy and it’s a wonderful coup that Furious 7 was able to convince him to play a villain. While not a great actor, he oozes danger. Unfortunately, they go overboard with this and make him unstoppable. He is a former special forces assassin with obvious psychic abilities.

Kurt Russell is brought out of retirement to play the enigmatic Mr. Nobody. I honestly thought that the next time I would see him would be in The Expendables 4 (or 5). He is suitably cool and appeals to older audiences. They also give him a kick-butt action sequence.

In smaller henchmen roles, they have wisely cast MMA champion Ronda Rousey and martial arts master Tony Jaa. Naturally, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Kara (Ronda Rousey) have a rousing good fight that is a highlight of the film. Kiet (Tony Jaa) has several scenes but his inside the bus fight with Brian (Paul Walker) is one of the other highlights.

Unfortunately, while director James Wan has a fantastic stunt team on his hands, he still resorts to the now standard shaky cam and fast editing of action sequences. The sequences aren’t ruined but most of them aren’t allowed proper room to breathe. Wan often seems more interested in various camera tricks than in the mutlimillion dollar stunts.

While the cast is excellent, the movie is not. It is quite watchable however. If all you want is to see some good fights, pretty people, and fast cars then Furious 7 will take care of you. It is also a loving homage to Paul Walker, that is one part they did get right.

Kurt Russell part 2

In 1979, Kurt Russell starred as the titular character in John Carpenter’s Elvis TV adaptation. This actor/director collaboration led to a long string of my favorite films – Escape From New York, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China (as well as the funny-but-no-classic Escape From L.A.). If you are new to commentary tracks on films, I highly suggest starting with those films – the Carpenter/Russell commentaries are informative yet laid back and entertaining. Kurt Russell has had a number of other good roles such as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone and Colonel O’Neil in Stargate but the A-list has always seemed just out of reach. Most recently Kurt Russell is an absolute hoot as Stuntman Mike in Quentin Tarantino’s Deathproof (Grindhouse).

Tequila Sunrise

1. Tequila Sunrise (1988) – “Veteran screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown, Swing Shift) wrote and directed this complex thriller with a superb cast. When two unlikely friends, Lt. Nick Frescia (Kurt Russell) and drug dealer Dale McKussic (Mel Gibson), fall for restaurant owner Jo Ann Vallenari (Michelle Pfeiffer), the pressure proves too much for the precarious friendship. Conrad Hall garnered an Oscar nod for his cinematography”

This is an excellent slow burn movie – action junkies need not apply. Conrad Hall was nominated for Best Cinematography but the question is whether it was for the fabulous shots of the beach, surf, and interiors – many bathed in a golden amber light or whether it was for the fabulous shots of the gorgeous cast. Seriously you could just turn off the sound and watch the three beautiful leads wander through beautiful scenery. Michelle Pfeiffer is well-dressed and gorgeous as always and the camera lingers long and often on her as it does on a brilliantined, dimpled Kurt Russell and a well-coiffed and often shirtless Mel Gibson. The dialogue is crisp and believable and the actors do a good job including Raul Julia and J.T. Walsh as backup.

Tango & Cash

2. Tango & Cash (1989) – “Director Andrei Konchalovsky takes the buddy-cop premise to great lengths in this tense, graphic look at two narcs in the Los Angeles Police Department who couldn’t have more different personal habits. The trouble is, Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabe Cash (Kurt Russell) are framed and wind up in prison, where they’re tortured by the thugs of the drug lord who put them there. But look out — they’re sure to escape and exact revenge.”

Well I guess you can’t win them all. This film has generic film scripting 101 written all over it. Let’s see – 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon made a ton of money – let’s make another buddy cop movie where we have completely mismatched characters and give them a common enemy. So Eddie Murphy was in prison in 48 Hours, I’ve got it – let’s send our cops to prison! The script is poorly written, the prison is unbelievably ineptly run (apparently dozens of inmates and several visitors ??!? can gather in the laundry room of a maximum security prison without guards being present), the villains are very generic and of course would always rather torture our heroes than kill them. The script is so unbelievably lazy that they stick in a “Q”-type character who makes cool gadgets and cars with guns. Since the heroes have a car with guns, the bad guys all have trucks with machine guns on them – at least those that don’t have rocket launchers on them. Seriously I could write pages on how stupidly this movie is plotted. I’m not making this up – the head criminal’s compund has a self-destruct device! When the heroes make important individual drug busts, the headlines state ‘Tango this’ and ‘Cash that’ as though they are the only police on the force (and as if a drug bust would ever be listed in a paper that way). Avoid this movie unless you are a glutton for punishment. Jack Palance does have fun as the villain (what else is new?) and if you have to watch, look for Clint Howard in a small part as Slinky.

Swing Shift

3. Swing Shift (1984) – “During World War II, a young woman (Goldie Hawn) takes a Rosie the Riveter-type job on a home-front factory assembly line while her husband is away defending democracy. Directed by Jonathan Demme, this is the comedy that began Kurt Russell and Hawn’s longtime real-life relationship. The all-star cast lineup includes Charles Napier, Christine Lahti, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Holly Hunter and Lisa Pelikan”

Kurt Russell falls in love with Goldie Hawn here and they live happily ever after – no not in the movie, in real life!  Russell had appeared with Hawn once before in The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968 – Hawn plays “Giggly Girl”) but here is where they started their relationship. While this is a good period drama, it is very slow moving and it is most certainly not a comedy as Netflix describes it (though it is light in tone). Christine Lahti was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this. Look for Goldie Hawn’s mother Laura as Ethel. Due to the pace, I’d only recommend it for those with an interest in the period (Jonathan Demme’s details are wonderful) or big fans of Goldie and Kurt.

Kurt Russell part 1

Kurt Russell started with Walt Disney in 1960 and achieved his greatest childhood fame as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), a character he revisited in Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). Upon reaching adulthood, Kurt played minor league baseball until returning to Hollywood in the 1980s. Sadly due to having a number of unsuccessful films as well as never having a runaway blockbuster, Kurt never quite made the A-list. Instant Netflix has six of his films so I’ll cover 3 today and 3 on Wednesday.

Soldier

1. Soldier (1998) – “Director Paul W.S. Anderson’s trippy, futuristic sci-fi film follows a cadre of men, born and bred to be shock troops in battle, who are made obsolete by a new race of genetically engineered soldier. Sgt. Todd (Kurt Russell) is one of the rejects left for dead on a junkyard planet. There, he slowly rediscovers his humanity while helping a community of human castaways battle the new breed of soldier threatening to wipe them out” – Paul W. S. Anderson makes some great popcorn films – films you watch and enjoy while watching them but realize afterwards what flaws they had. Kurt Russell capably carries the film in spite of having almost no dialogue – Gary Busey, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielson and Sean Pertwee perform ably but none of them really stand out. The film is a lot of fun but afterwards you realize the “new and improved” soldiers were deeply stupid and showed little to no tactical or strategic knowledge – something you think you might want in genetically-engineered soldiers.

Executive Decision

2. Executive Decision (1996) – “When terrorists hijack a 747 and turn it into a nerve-gas bomb aimed at Washington, D.C., commandos (including Steven Seagal and John Leguizamo) use an experimental plane to board the jetliner — in flight! When things go wrong, think-tank desk-jockey David Grant (Kurt Russell) assumes command, knowing that if he falls short, Washington will become a ghost town — the hard way. Executive Decision is a rarity: a brainy blockbuster” – This is an excellent Clancy-esque thriller. One of my favorite things about this thriller is that Kurt Russell isn’t the be-all end-all solution to every problem the terrorists present – able help is provided by Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, John Leguizamo, and Joe Morton. Although his is a supporting role, this is my favorite Steven Seagal film.

People watchers look for Marla Maples Trump as Flight Attendant Nancy.

Backdraft

3. Backdraft (1991) – “A blast of flames can take a life … and hide a secret. Fireman brothers William Baldwin and Kurt Russell battle each other over past slights while trying to stop an arsonist from torching Chicago as part of a diabolical agenda. Co-starring Robert De Niro, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Donald Sutherland, director Ron Howard’s epic tale will thrill you with incredible effects” – Ron Howard’s love letter to firemen is second only to his love letter to the space program (Apollo 13). This covers the whole fireman milieu – brave firefighters, firefighters too in love with their jobs, firefighters too in love with fire, arsonists, arson investigators and most importantly lots and lots of FIRE! The movie is worth recommending on the strength of the fire effects alone not to mention the wonderful cast. In addition to the actors mentioned above, Backdraft also features Scott Glenn and Rebecca De Mornay. The movie is by no means perfect – scripting and plotting could both have used some work and William Baldwin isn’t bad but doesn’t shine either but still highly recommended.